A Subdued Drive from Belgrade to Mostar


Today we leave Belgrade, Serbia and drive to Bosnia, Mostar. Mostar had been on my list of places to visit for many years.

We had a long day of driving ahead so Ty left us to complete the hotel check out whilst he took a taxi to the car rental company to pick up the car.   My husband is very organised and given the hotel did not have parking for us to leisurely park and pack the luggage  we were given our instructions over breakfast to ensure we were ready to leave –  all 3 of us were to check out of the hotel and be ready with our luggage in the lobby.  This was important because there was only 5 minute parking, till 9am, beside the hotel, after which it was no standing and he didn’t want us to incur a fine.  No problem, we’d be ready….or so I thought! However, when we returned from breakfast we noticed Gorging Gonz hadn’t completed his packing.  We’re early risers and had been leaving the breakfast room when he arrived.  Lord Lunchalot was earlier than us!  It was my task to organise Gorging Gonz to ensure we were all ready…..famous last words..lol.

Lord Lunchalot helped me take our luggage to the foyer but there was still no sign of our other travelling companion. He had disappeared! Ty arrived back with the car and proceeded to pack the car, still no sign of GG.  Ty was becoming a little stressed about the parking situation and I went to locate our friend.  Eventually found him wandering along one of the corridors of the hotel taking photos of pictures on their walls. I let him know  all our luggage was packed in the car and we were waiting for him and his luggage.   Our time limit in the no standing zone had expired and we needed to move on.  He said had a few more photos to take quickly before joining us.  I left him and headed back to the car.  GG wandered out of the hotel to find us waiting in the car and Ty standing at the back ready to pack his luggage.  Things were a little tense (we’d been booked before in a foreign city and we didn’t want to risk it again especially in Serbia) a couple of words were exchanged between the group.  With the car packed and all passengers inside we eventually said goodbye to Belgrade.


  Hillside village

As you’d expect tensions were a little tight for part of the drive.  Group travel is not always easy or congenial whether the group be 2,4 or 14 people, couples, friends or a busload of strangers. Someone will occasionally be upset about one thing or another whether perceived or actual. As hard as it is sometimes we just need to do our best to rise above the little issue…..and we did. It probably didn’t help that our accommodation had been a little messed up.  Note: This was explained in the previous blog on Serbia.

The drive to Bosnia was relatively easy, GPS had no idea most of the time but we managed to stay on track quite well by doing the old fashioned thing of reading road signs!

On the road to Mostar

At one point we stopped to purchase a drink at a petrol station. Just as we were getting back in the car to leave 2 men drove up in a small black car, the driver stepped out of the car, as he passed us he spoke to us in a foreign language whilst flashing a bottle from his pocket.  We shook our heads “NO” and he moved on.  Have no idea what black market item he was trying to sell us but we laughed at the incident. Reminded me of the movies where a man, wearing a beige trench coat, clandestinely opens his coat to reveal a myriad of fake watches for sale.

The views of the mountain ranges were amazing – part of the Dinaric Mountains which run through Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Italy.  The range is often called Dinaric Alps however they are not alps in the true sense of the word but a mountain range that has sheer cliffs, rock formations that look like church steeples and are composed of dolomite and limestone.  Incredible rock formations! Our surroundings reminded me of driving in Austria or Switzerland and I could imagine the mountains covered in snow in the winter.


Dinaric Ranges

The temperature was changing as well,  down to 15 degrees Celsius going over the top of the alps  near Sarajevo but steadily increased until it was 25 degrees on arrival in Mostar.

The drive from Belgrade to Mostar was about 8 hours.

Belgrade was originally just a transit city for us from Greece to Bosnia.  I quite enjoyed our stay in Belgrade as it has so much to offer and the old architecture is beautiful. In the beginning I had mapped the drive through Albania but Ty didn’t feel comfortable driving from Athens to Bosnia via Albania – it was a long drive, too, which doesn’t bother him but, at the time of organising the trip there weren’t many positive reviews about driving through Albania.  I was having enough trouble convincing him that he would enjoy visiting Bosnia so I wasn’t going to badger him about driving through Albania.

So excited to be arriving in Mostar!

Our GPS was not happy in Bosnia, it had terrible trouble finding places and addresses.  We had to drive around looking for our hotel.  Luckily I’m attracted to shopping centres as I spied a large new shopping centre I noticed our hotel sitting right beside it!!  It doesn’t get better than that – a couple of my favourite things – a shopping centre and a 5 star motel!!  Who needs a GPS when you have a shopper on board…lol!!

We were staying at the Mepas Hotel, a relatively brand new 5 star hotel.  Exceptionally well priced, very friendly staff and the bathroom was larger than my walk in wardrobe! Loved this place.

Dinner this evening was at the  Prestige Restaurant (located in the Mall connected to Mepas Hotel). The restaurant, like the Mall and the Mepas Hotel, was relatively new and very modern.  The staff were friendly and the food was delicious.  Wines weren’t too bad either!  The service was a little slower than we’re used to however we weren’t in a hurry so it didn’t concern us.  Recommend if you’re visiting Mostar.

Next morning we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. There was a large array of food items so it really did need to be a leisurely breakfast to allow Gorging Gonz, Lord Lunchalot and Ty to try as many dishes as possible…lol. I am a smaller eater than these 3 and tend to eat the same amount for breakfast no matter how many options there are.  With full stomachs and finishing off with our coffees it was time to decide on the days’ activities.

We decided we’d wander over to the old town and that fabulous Stari Most (old bridge) over the Neretva River that is quintessential Mostar.  I’m well aware this bridge was reconstructed after it was destroyed in 1993 during the conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina.  The original bridge was completed around 1566.  Such a shame wars destroy so much historical information  and beautiful architecture.  Much of the old town was also destroyed and some have been restored or rebuilt.  Christians, Jews and Muslims managed to live side by side for more than 4 centuries in this historic city.  All that changed in 1990.

Our meander through the city took us to the old town where many bombed out buildings of the senseless conflict that pitted neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, still stand derelict today.  We came across other, what we thought, strange images on our stroll.  A large area of concrete squares and a wall with black stencil drawings on them.  Cats, dogs, man, woman, child, a bicycle among them.  What were they and why were they in this place?  We had no real idea.  We finally came upon the Bazaar.  Ahh, shopping!!!!

The Bazaar was a cultural mix of clothing, artefact, some interesting artifacts too….lots of empty bullet shells, army knives, tin hats, uniforms; a treasure trove of all things ‘war’!  I did quite like the miniature canons, cars and various other items made out of the empty shell casings….at least I think the casings were empty!  I was ready to purchase one of the miniatures when Ty quickly reminded me that I wouldn’t be able to get the item through customs on the way home, he also mentioned ‘what if it is live ammunition’.  Hmm, ok, point taken but I’m not happy as it seemed the perfect souvenir from Mostar…….

Lunch today was on one of the terraces overlooking Stari Most I shared my lunch with 3 little cats.  The ‘boys’ didn’t share theirs with anyone!  After lunch we decided to move to the other side of the bridge and enjoy coffee at another café whilst watching the young men jump for the bridge. The bridge becomes very crowded with tourists and the local lads tout around the visitors tasking for money to jump off the bridge.  It’s a bit of a scam….some jump but a lot of them take the money and don’t jump they pretend they’re going to jump then ask for more money.  We had a great view to watch those that did jump (probably tourists) and to hear the locals asking for money. We think some of those touting were also tourists (backpackers maybe).

A few statistics for those readers interested in bridges!! The bridge is 4 metres wide, 30 metres in length and 24 metres high (almost 79 feet in imperial measure). It has a south east tower (Tara) and a north west tower (Halebija). These towers are the ‘bridge keepers’.

The tradition of jumping off the bridge goes back nearly 5 centuries. The earliest record of children jumping from the bridge was in 1664.  Today 2 techniques are mostly used by the jumpers, the feet first jump and the head first jump with 2 variations, the pike or the swallow. Today a large number of the jumpers are visitors who, if they need to, can practice downstream a few metres on 2 smaller platforms.

The weather was fabulous but we had decided we should head back to the hotel for a break before dinner.  Not me our hotel was connected to a shopping mall and I just happened to need a pair of runners (joggers, walking shoes).  I hadn’t brought any with me but I had a little trip in Santorini and my ankle was swelling so I needed a ‘sensible’ pair of walking shoes to help foot.   This evening was a quiet one.

I had booked us on 2 tours for the next day.  The first one was a 2 hour Mostar City Tour. This was partly a  walking tour partly driving. We met our guide near the Bazaar.  We walked from the Hotel to the Bazaar and on the way a dog befriended us, well, Ty actually.  The dog continued to walk with us even though we would stop and tell him to go back home…he didn’t…he stopped when we stopped, looked at us and then continued on beside Ty….he obviously didn’t understand english..lol. I was a little concerned he’d be lost so when we met the guide, and the dog was still with us, we explained our concern to the guide.  He laughed,  touching the green tag on the dogs’ ear and said ‘He’s ok, after the war ended there were many homeless dogs so the city decided to look after them all.  They were desexed and tagged and are well feed”. I thought that was such a wonderful, compassionate idea for these animals.  Well done to the people of Mostar!!

In the evening we took another 2.5 hour tour named “Death of Yugoslavia” with Miran, a young man who was a child during the 1990’s war.    Miran is very knowledgeable, funny and made the tour extremely interesting and entertaining. Until 1991 Bosnia and Herzegovina was part of the Yugoslavia.  On this tour we visited several historic sites which included one of Tito’s top secret aircraft bunkers where he hid fighter planes protected from any possible attack but they were ready to attack   The hangar, which is deep under a road and now completely derelict.  Miran took us for a drive up into the pitch black hangar, headlights on high to point out the work rooms off to each side and the electrical equipment on the walls. Very eerie and whilst trying to focus on what Miran was telling us, and showing us, my thoughts were on what ifs;  what if someone outside managed to slam the huge doors shut, what if the van breaks down in this blackness, and, how much further was he going to drive up into this horrid blackness. It may have been well lit in it’s day but now it was just abandoned, debris strewn around and downright scary!!!   Apparently tourists do seek out this hangar on their own and I assume they also bring lots of torches with them if they choose to walk into this place.  If you are thinking to visit without a guide make sure you’re well equipped – don’t want you to be lost in that hole in the mountain forever. Also, it should be told, this is not officially a tourist attraction but nonetheless interesting.  Pleased Miran took us there however scary I thought it was.

We also visited the Partisan Memorial Cemetery, Miran showed photos of the PMC prior to the civil war, a beautiful picture of gardens, fountains and memorial walls on the hillside above Mostar.  However what we were walking through was overgrown, memorial walls badly in need of repair, parts of the garden walls had fallen over, broken concrete paths…so hard to describe this sobering sight in a few words. 

Earlier in this blog I mentioned the stencils and Miran took us to this area and explained what the stencils symbolised.  This area was a town square with beautiful flowering gardens, a centrepiece between the shopping districts, hotels and homes.  The stencils show the activities that used to happen here, the children playing, people riding their bicycles, women carrying their shopping home through the square, a meeting place for friends. Everywhere we looked there was the reminder of the civil war of the 1990’s, what was once a 5 star hotel was completely decimated but the shell still stands as do large numbers of other buildings and homes. There is an abandoned multi storey car park that was a snipers post. So much destruction.

We were told that the Government has been instrumental in ensuring the majority of the historic, eastern part of the city has been restored to it’s former glory unfortunately that can’t be said of the Croatian (western) side which still bears many scars of the war.   It is thought, by some, the Government is only interested in restoring the tourist areas.  I have to say, from my point of view, I found the western side, although battle scarred, held a fascination for me. Of course, I loved the various styles of architecture on the eastern side, I was in awe of the history and age of many of the buildings and found beauty in all parts of this incredible city.  Would visit again in a heartbeat!

In Zrinjski City Park is a statue of Bruce Lee which struck us as a little strange so we had to find out why it was here.  The statue was the idea of the Mostar Urban Movement, sculpted by Ivan Fijolic and funded by the German Govt.  It is supposed to be a symbol of solidarity to the ethnically divided Mostar.  The Movement felt that everyone around the world loved Bruce Lee regardless of their nationality or religion.


Gorging Gonz with his idol

For my readers who prefer to see my list of likes and dislikes here they are:

Things I like and found interesting about Mostar:

  • Hotel Mepas
  • City is easy to navigate on foot.
  • Old Town
  • Since the 1990 civil war many damaged buildings stand as a constant reminder to the “troubles”. 
  • the fact the street dogs are desexed, tagged and looked after by the people.
  • walking over the famous Stari Most even though it’s a rebuild….so much history
  •  Death Of Yugoslavia Tour – guide, Miran, was great and the tour was very interesting
  • Prestige Restaurant – great meals/good prices
  • the old Town Square which was now a mess of concrete and fencing with stencils in black of bike riders, cats, dogs and people trying to tell the story of the Town Square in it’s heyday.
  • Yellow buses in Mostar have a Japanese flag on the side as the buses were donated by Japan.

Things I didn’t particularly like or felt sad about:

  • the once beautiful Partisan Memorial Cemetery and gardens that were now derelict.  Old photographs showed an amazing stepped garden/memorial…such a shame
  • that the old town square wasn’t rebuilt the lovely park between the homes that became a cemetery through necessity when the sectarian war pitted neighbour against neighbour
  • due to Australia’s custom’s and quarantine rules I wasn’t able to bring back some of the very eclectic items made from ammunition (shells and bullets)

If you have the opportunity to visit this region I would definitely encourage you to do so. As well as having impressive, dramatic scenery and friendly people they also have a fascinating history.  I love history intermingled with great scenery, food and friendly people!

Did my husband enjoy his stay in Bosnia……I hear you asking.  Yes, he did and he would willing go back again!  I’m also certain our companions, Gorging Gonz and Lord Lunchalot thoroughly enjoyed this cultural and historical visit.  

Where to from here?  Croatia with Dubrovnik being first stop!

Bosnia Herzegovina, I’m not so sure this is a good idea, darling……

( firstly I need to apologise to my readers and followers for my absence from blogging. Life has been very busy completing studies in travel and starting my very own travel business…but I’m back now!)

Or words to that effect came from my husband when I mentioned our travel plans included a visit to Bosnia. He always includes a “darling” at the end when he really wants to say ‘this is a silly idea, forget it as I don’t think Bosnia will be safe”.  Mostar was intended place and the Stari Most (old bridge) that crosses the River Neretva was what I wanted to see.   It’s been on my barrel (bucket list is too small for me) list of places to visit for many years and given we were travelling to Croatia again I thought we should add Mostar to the trip.

I was well aware that the main feature of Mostar (the bridge) had been totally destroyed in November 1993 by the Croatian forces and what we see today is a reconstruction of the bridge…no matter….. the place still has plenty of history.   The hump-backed bridge has connected both sides of the city since the 16th century and history tells us it has straddled the river majestically for 427 years.  More about the bridge later.

Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems, I caused Ty further alarm when I mentioned there were no direct flights from Athens to Dubrovnik but  mentioned we could drive via Albania.  However, a flight directly to Belgrade, Serbia was the best option. I was now changing our plans to suit the flight path! Ok, throw away the previous plan and start the second part of the trip again.  I ignored any reservations I might have about the trip and heard ‘blah blah blah’ whenever Ty mentioned the possible dangers of a trip through Serbia and Bosnia. I started researching the drive, I  looked up reviews of anyone who’d completed the drive taking note of any useful information.  I read road reports including reports about unexploded incendiary devices and how these had moved during the floods they’d had a year earlier.  There were warnings to heed such as – do not turn off the main roads or refrain from stopping off on the side of the road and getting out of the car to take a stroll in the countryside. I came to the conclusion that we would be fine as long as we drove on the main roads and stopped for loo breaks in a town…no squatting behind a tree for me….haven’t attempted that since I almost backed into a large spiderweb containing a very large and unattractive spider. Given my extreme fear of spiders it was  enough to make me hold in any urge to wee in the bush from that time on…..I, for one, would not be in any danger of stepping on any unexploded devices!

Destination problem solved, we would fly to Serbia, pick up a car at the end of our couple of days in Belgrade and drive to Croatia via Bosnia.  Our danger lurked within……there were 4 of us on the trip and one was an Australian born of Croatian parents.  We just had to keep Frank under control in Serbia and Bosnia….lol.


Our disembarkation from the Greek Island cruise and the flight to Belgrade did not match up for the same day…there was only one daily flight to Belgrade from Athens at 9 am and the ship didn’t dock till 7.30am. We were on Greek time so I didn’t want to tempt fate so an overnight stay at a resort on the coast would be welcome before the next leg of the trip.  I chose the  Aquis Mare Nostrum resort away from Athens so the temptation to shop has been removed and forced relaxation would be the order of the day!! I had booked a hire car to pick us up from the port and deliver us to the resort.  Our driver, Zios, was very friendly and chatted away freely on the drive.  Frank took the front seat on this drive so he interacted more with Zios than we did. The resort was definitely out of Athens, as we drove further into the country and we encountered many country lanes, sadly, I knew there would be absolutely no chance of  shopping……I was now beginning to doubt this idea of a self imposed rest day. Oh well, as Ty would say, suck it up princess!

As we drove down yet another country lane  a tractor driven by an elderly man with trailer in tow was coming towards us.  Nothing unusual about that you’re thinking, we’re driving down a country lane surrounded by farms, and you would be right, except for what the trailer was carrying.  Perhaps a pig, maybe a cow, no, there at the front of the trailer stood a plump elderly woman dressed in a blue dress holding onto the wire of the trailer cage with one hand and her fabulous white hat with the other.  The brim of her hat was blowing about her head as the tractor moved along at top speed.  Did I get a photo, no, ‘cos by the time our brains registered what our eyes saw, it was too late.  When I finally stopped  laughing I wanted to go back and take a photo but we couldn’t – we were in a hire car and we couldn’t ask the driver to follow that tractor please!  If Ty had been driving we certainly would have taken that photo and it would be part of our photo gallery at home.  What a fabulous, and funny, sight.  Priceless to us but probably a normal sight to this farming area outside Athens.

Arriving at the resort I note how large this place is, a lot larger than I had expected.  Our bungalow was advertised as a beach bungalow but it was not close to the beach at all, in fact it was a 10 minute walk down to the pool area, so the advertising on this one was embellished a little.  A little disappointing but we could live with it. It’s just an overnight stop!  There were several bungalows close to the pool area but not overlooking it. A little further on past the bungalows and on the other side of a fenced off area, with a gate housing a security guard, was the sandy area of the beach. There was a small roadway and a grassed area between the bungalows and the fence. So beware if you’re booking the resort – no bungalows are on or close to the beach nor do you have a view of the beach as they are ground level. Looks great in the brochure and online.  The guest entry area and hotel rooms are on several levels in the main building set at the very back of the resort.

After checking in we  went to our respective rooms, the 2 boys up in the lifts, their rooms were in the main hotel, and we,on a golf cart with our luggage, were driven to our unit. Definitely not a bungalow but a unit in a small complex.

We met up again to have coffee and find a place to park our bodies on beach chairs near the pool.  Parking of bodies was at a premium with all spaces taken around the pool area and out on the beach so we had to avail ourselves of a couple of sun lounges in a grassy area under the trees. We were fine, it was a very hot day so the shade was welcome.  When we picked up the beach towels Troy commented that ‘they were warmer than some of our brekkies on the ship’! Love our Lord Lunchalot…very witty individual.

I managed to get through the day lazing around, a little bit of blog writing, a little bit of reading and a little bit of eating helped pass the time. This is not something I could do all the time or even 2 days in a row…I’m easily bored. If  I can’t shop and I’m tired of reading or writing I have to eat….

The afternoon was drawing to a close and soon our conversation turned to dinner…’what were our plans’ asked Troy. ‘Well, we are in a resort with nothing in close proximity’ I replied.  ‘Perhaps we could try escaping and walking to the nearest town but I’m not sure of the direction’ ‘We could call a taxi’ our Uber loving friend replied. ‘Hmm, I think it’s dinner here in the restaurant’ was my comeback. And so it was that we went back to our respective rooms, us to the bungalow that wasn’t a bungalow, Frank and Troy to their hotel rooms with agreement to meet in the lobby in an hour and a half (at 6.30).

When we enter the lobby at 6.25pm Troy is waiting however 20 minutes later Frank still hasn’t arrived.  As we have to walk back past the lifts we contemplate heading to the restaurant hoping Frank will step out of the lift as we pass. We tried calling his room earlier but there was no reply so we assume he is on his way or possibly ignoring us. Given the amount of time that passed he’s probably ignoring us…

The restaurant was a buffet. “Oh no” from me.  I’m not keen on buffets, very often there’s too many children, and adults for that matter, touching the food.  The buffet was 22 euros and included unlimited soft drinks and beer.  The food on offer was actually very good and a large proportion of the food was being freshly cooked as you ordered. I was impressed with the fabulous waitress making the profiteroles.  Yes, dessert is my favourite part of the meal!  The boys (well, we still call them boys don’t we ladies?) were very happy with the food on offer, beef was tender and they found 4 different flavours of ice cream on offer.

We all agreed the food was fabulous but then we weren’t sure whether it was because the food on the ship had been unappetising.  Perhaps we’d prefer to think the former.

We couldn’t help but notice the diverse range of ages, body shapes and sizes in budgie smugglers and bikinis.  I love the Europeans for the way they ignore the perception of what constitutes a beautiful body and/or embarrassment around body image – they just wear what they themselves are comfortable in.

After dinner we found there was nothing much happening in the resort so we sat in the lounge area with a coffee chatting before retiring.  I often have a thought that it would be lovely and relaxing to stay in a resort in the middle of nowhere….I’ve since removed that line of thinking.  I need to be occupied for a good part of the day and evening…reading a book every night does not fill me with excitement nor does watching television in a foreign country….there’s only so much of CBC and BBC world I can digest.

This morning we have an early flight to Belgrade.  We rose at 5am and when we went to check out found the hotel opened to allow early leavers to have breakfast. Another point in their favour.

The flight to Belgrade was uneventful…we left Athens on time and arrived at Belgrade at 9.10am.  Our hotel was in the centre of town, Hotel Moskva, however we were too early to check in so we left our luggage and wandered around taking in our surroundings.  We changed currencies, 370 Serbian Dinar (RSD) = 3 euros.  Cake  480 dinar and coffee 370 dinar so a total of 850 dinar just under 7 euros.

First impressions of Belgrade, have to say, very similar to other Eastern European countries, very wide streets, grey – buildings and weather.  No awnings so when it rains there’s no chance of cover.  We’d walked for a bit, skies were bleak and it was now time for food.  Lord Lunchalot is our food/drinks timepiece….you can be sure he’ll remind us it’s coffee time or eating time.  We lunched at Le Moliere café.

The rain had started whilst we were enjoying our lunch.  Unfortunately it was still raining when we finished our lunch so we had to step out into the rain and walk the 800 metres to the hotel without cover.  Damn, I had washed my hair that morning and I’m sure Lord Lunchalot and Gorging Gonz (Frank, for those of you new to my blogs) had placed styling product in their hair as well.  Ty was not affected by the rain!

It was now time to check into the hotel……and this in itself is another story and a lesson in checking bookings for accuracy.

Hotel Moskva

We stepped up to the desk beside 2 disheveled men who were being told, quite bluntly, that they could go across the road to another hotel as they didn’t have a reservation.  Obviously the hotel was fully booked.  Luckily we had booked almost 12 months prior…..or had we?

It was now our turn….’Yes, we have a booking for Starr and Littleton but we have no booking for Anderson”.  “That’s not possible, there should be 3 bookings, 2 were made together and the 3rd made a month or 2 later” I said. “No, no booking for Anderson and no rooms available” “But we had made a booking” I was adamant.  I had booked ours and Troy’s but not Frank’s as he wasn’t there at the time. I helped book the 3rd room a couple of months later.  The reception staff checked the reservations system and found Frank’s booking…but it was for 9th May (09/05/) not 5th Sept (05/09).  European dates for reservations are completed month first whereas ours are day first.  Knowing this I’m always careful to double check I have it correct.  In this case I did not have a copy of the accommodation confirmation so I couldn’t check it for accuracy as it went to Frank. When the receptionist gave us the information Frank remembered being charged for the room back in May but when he told me back in May we didn’t think anything of it….hotels sometimes do take the full amount months before guests arrive.  The hotel said the only option was for Frank to go across the road to the other hotel.  This was not a suitable option for us and, as you would expect, Frank was not a happy chappy, nor was I, and the Croat/Serbian hostilities might just start up again so we had to quickly dissolve this unfortunate error that neither of us picked up.  The staff were not at all helpful and were a little terse. Luckily or unluckily, whichever way you choose to look at it, I had booked a duplex room to see what it was like.  I try to choose different options when staying at hotels so I can report back on what, other than standard rooms, are available.  So, I can tell you dear reader, that a duplex room at the Moskva Hotel in Belgrade sleeps 4 people, has 2 toilets but unfortunately, only one bathroom on the small upper level bedroom area.  Needless to say the 2 nights spent in Belgrade were not the happiest or most relaxed experience for everyone but we got through it…..

After taking our luggage to our rooms we met in the lobby to discuss our plan of action.  We decided a city tour might be worthwhile so we walked back to the shopping area  looking for the visitor information centre.  Found it!  Enquired about city tours or any other recommended tour that might be available.  Unfortunately we were too late to book a tour for today but booked a half day city tour and Castle visit for tomorrow morning.  As it was now quite late in the afternoon we thought it time for a relaxing drink.

During the early hours of Sunday morning I was woken by car doors slamming and lots of voices  in the street below.  Our room overlooked a park behind the hotel.  I looked out and saw taxis dropping people off in the park.  Men, women and children some with pieces of luggage but mostly plastic bags.  I gathered that they were some of the refugees making their way from the Greek Islands through Macedonia and Albania to Serbia.  There was perhaps 30 or so people that had arrived.  They were still sitting/standing around the park when we left the hotel mid morning but when we returned at 2pm they had gone.

As with most of Europe Sunday’s a non event with most shops closed.  I came to the conclusion that Sundays in Belgrade lend themselves to dog walking and the large café culture.  Not a bad thing really.   Not having a dog to walk we decide to take a walking tour of Belgrade ending with a visit to the Castle.  This was a prebooked walking tour, we reached our meeting point 15 minutes earlier than the starting time of 11am and patiently waited for our guide.  We waited, we wandered up and down looking at the buildings, we waited watching people walk by…not many people walked by so each time we saw a man heading our way we thought it must be our guide….no they walked by.  we continued to wait, kicked a few rocks around, sat on a bench, got up again, had another discussion on how long we would wait, stood around and eventually said…”Obviously the guide has decided to walk his dog or sit at an outdoor café and enjoy a coffee and the sunshine!” So we unanimously agreed to head to the Castle ourselves and take our own tour.

The castle was impressive with great views.  The garden has some magnificent trees with thick foliage forming a bower and reaching the ground.  IMG_6670Made for some fun photos. There were rows of military vehicles and canons on show from the earlier conflicts with Bosnia.

Nearing the end of our castle wandering Lord Lunchalot and Gorging Gonz reminded us it was past their lunch time.  Lunch for me was a small ‘vitamin’ salad.  Not sure why it was so called…it consisted of tomato, lettuce, cucumber, carrots and cost 450 dinar.

Later in the afternoon the weather was becoming cold and the skies were starting to darken and a sensible decision was made to go to our hotel and sit on the terrace and partake in afternoon tea. A hot chocolate for me – it really was hot chocolate.  A block of chocolate melted!  It was so thick it was hard to drink but it was yummy.

Hot Chocolate

My block of chocolate melted and placed in a cup!

Ty and I dined in the hotel restaurant this evening, food was very good.

Whilst in Serbia, sitting around a table sipping wine and talking rubbish (as you do) Ty and I told Gorging Gonz and Lord Lunchalot about our plan to ensure we would not unwittingly come across unexploded IEDs which may have slipped towards the road during recent heavy rains.   We had devised a dance, similar to The Stomp, they could perform a few feet in front of the car as we drove through Serbia to Bosnia to check for unexploded devices. One step forward, one step to the left, one to the right, stamp both feet on the spot,  1 step forward ………..

Celestyal Cristal Ports of Call part 2

The port of call today is Cesme (meaning fountain) Turkey.  Cesme is situated on the Aegean coast.  The town is a 15 minute drive from Alacati or 45 minutes from Izmir.  This area is much less touristy than Bodrum and has a very vibrant nightlife (so we were informed). Unfortunately our excursion to an exclusive resort for an afternoon of relaxation prior to attending a nightclub to sample the vibrant nightlife was cancelled.  We were thoroughly disappointed with this as the information and pictures contained on the cruise website looked amazing.  Cesme has an interesting history as does most of the Greek Islands and Turkish coastline towns and cities.

After docking in Cesme we  disembarked the ship, walked through customs and, before going out into the street,  changed a small amount of euros to Turkish Lire.  There was nothing around us except a few houses opposite the terminal, a mechanic shop and, to the right, a boat yard and marina.  We deliberated for a while and discussed pricing with a taxi driver, it was very expensive so we shuffled our feet, looked around us and deliberated some more and decided to take a stroll to town, others were taking taxis but we thought a stroll in the heat would be more satisfying….plus we thought the taxi driver and his friends were overcharging us.  IMG_6451The ship docks a little way out of the town here and it’s a pleasant walk to the centre where Cesme castle is the most prominent feature. In fact no taxi is needed at all as on the way back we discovered a very pretty walkway with shops on either side, with walls and overhead timber beams draped with beautiful pink and deep red bougainvillea,  which took us from the main street directly to the port area.

Whilst walking to town we discussed what we should do for the day and evening as the ship will dock here till 11pm.  ‘The beach’ was the call from the three men, I didn’t mind as long as I have a lounge to lie on and a beach umbrella I’m fine. Sitting or lying on a towel on a sandy beach does not appeal to me – I like my comforts. Reaching the  centre of town we spied a tourist centre.  ‘Let’s go in and see which beach they recommend and the best way to get to it’. Anyone who has visited this are of the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas know it’s a very casual, laid back area so we weren’t surprised to walk in to the office and find no one staffing it.  After 10 minutes or so a man stepped in through a side entrance, seemingly from another store, to inform us the agent would be back shortly so could we please take a seat.  ‘Certainly, no problem’ I said as we continued to look through brochures we’d picked up.  Another 15 minutes passed before the agent returned.  He very pleasantly told us which beach was the best and which number bus would take us there as well as pointing us to the bus stand.

Cesme boardwalk

Cesme boardwalk

Cesme street

Cesme street





Altinkum Beach was the choice and bus stop D was a short 2 minute walk from the tourist centre. The trip would take 20 minutes and was an amusing ride.  Entry/exit to the bus was via a side door. we stepped in and realised very quickly the little 16 seater was crowded so for the first part of the journey we all stood.  We passed our money down to the bus driver via Troy, who stood closest to the driver at this point.  There were many stops along the route and the little bus became very crowded, absolutely no more standing room so we started to pass stops unless a passenger wanted to alight with their shopping. As it became more crowded the fare for each new passenger was passed through many hands to reach the driver.  It was similar to playing ball tag where a small round ball is passed from team member to team member overhead.  Change was passed back in the same way.

Thankfully seats eventually became available for the final part of the journey – it was exhausting handing money back and forth to the driver, and dangerous, especially when he took a sharp corner!  As we were playing our game of ball tag  I’m certain our little Turkish bus driver was playing his own game of  how far you can fling a standing passenger as you take a corner at 40 mph.

Several beaches came into view and the views did not disappoint.  The bus finally reached it’s last stop, Altinkum Beach, and we alighted a little dishevelled from being thrown around and overheated from lack of air conditioned comfort but we still enjoyed the experience. Holidays are all about our experiences so soak them up whether you deem them to be good or bad.

Cesme beach goers

Cesme beach goers

I love the European beach culture of renting a sun lounge and umbrella for an hour, several hours or a whole day…Australia has beautiful beaches but our councils lack forethought in this area.  Although if they did take this on you can be sure we would be paying a premium for this service rather than allowing the entrepreneur to set up a little business in a section of the beach.

Cesme yuki

Ice cream truck

For the privilege of renting 4 sun lounges, 2 umbrellas, access to a shower/change rooms and toilet we paid the young man 20 Turkish lira. One Turkish Lira is equal to approximately Aus.48 cents  or US.33cents so under $10 for the day between 4 of us. A can of coca cola was 5 Turkish lira.

The weather was beautiful and after soaking up the surroundings for 15 minutes it was time to venture into the Aegean Sea.  I let Ty and Troy head off first to test the water temperature, they gave the thumbs up to signal me that it wasn’t too cold and to join them.  I headed across the extremely hot sand, very gingerly, to meet the water.  Silly mistake I had crossed boiling hot sand to reach water that looked so inviting but was about 5 degrees Celsius.  So here is my warning to you dear reader – Altinkum Beach is beautiful,  the view across the blue Aegean horizon amazing and very peaceful, the water is crystal clear but it is freezing cold, so cold it’s like stepping into an ice bath!  So when your friends are in the water and signalling to you that it is not at all cold do not believe them!!  Did I put more than my toe in the water?  Yes, I did but it took a little while, once in up to my neck and my heart had recovered from the shock it was enjoyable. Getting out was another matter once out of the water I ignored any further encouragement to get me back in.  My body wouldn’t recover from a second shock in one day.

After several hours we decided to head back to town for a wander around and then afternoon tea.  Food, food and more food is the main focus when travelling with men, especially so with Gorging Gonz.  Troy (Lord Lunchalot) was the first to avail himself of the shower and toilet facilities at this section of Altinkum Beach.  I thought I’d wait for him to report back before I went to change – I’m always a little wary as some amenities can be quite primitive (another reason not to like camping).  I was right to wait…his face said it all as he looked at us whilst walking back. The shower/change room was very small and the floor was full of water making it difficult to change without getting all your clothes wet and the toilet was  hole in the ground – not a fancy hole in the ground, no, no place to plant your feet or bars to hold onto whilst you do what you need to.  So I decided to struggle to dry myself and change clothes inside 2 towels being held around me by Ty.  We did our best to keep my modesty in tact, perhaps on a German beach I could’ve whipped my cossies off, towelled dry and redressed without anyone blinking an eye but we were in Turkey. Anyway Germany would have had very modern facilities for the beach goers…..hmmm the German sunlovers would still have stripped off in full view.  Got to give it to some of the European natives they aren’t shy when it comes to nakedness.

We had a 20 minute wait for the little bus so we wandered around looking at the other beach areas and their offerings of sun lounges and umbrellas.  Each little area had a different colour scheme for their umbrellas and lounges. The bus arrived but he wouldn’t be ready to leave for another 10 minutes, we could sit on the bus if we like.  No, way too hot to take our seats this early, we’ll board just before he leaves!!

Ios (Niós as locals call it) is the number one party island in the Greek Islands at the moment as well as being Homer’s resting place.  It is a very hilly island with most of the houses built on a hilltop…fabulous blue roofs and whitewashed walls with the rich pinks of bougainvillea’s adding rich colours to the surrounds.  Houses on Ios have the same characteristics of the other islands in the  Cyclades group but I never tire of seeing those colour combinations.  The population of Ios is around 2100 and Chora (pronounced Hóra), the main village, is perched on top of a hill.  There are a number of beaches on Ios and one  popular and well-known beach is Manganari.

The ship isn’t able to dock at the port so tender boats are used to ferry us to the island. The dock area has a number of small shops and a couple of restaurants but all the action is up on top of the cliff. We took the bus to Chora at a cost of 1.80 euro each and stops a short walk from the access to the main village.  A man, the image of Richard Clapton, sat beside Troy on the bus.  Richard Clapton is a 70’s rock’n’roll singer still doing the rounds in the Australian music industry.

Stepping off the bus I spied a great view of 2 blue roofed, white walled churches… We headed across a car park, up several sets of modernish stairs until, in front of us, a number of tiny alleyways appeared.  Not knowing which was the best alley to take we followed others.  The alleys snaked their way to the left and also to the right but we climbed stair after stair straight ahead to the very top of the village, well, as far as the body wanted to go in the heat..


Hora (Chora)



Many steep winding stairs later we arrived just below the The church of Virgin Mary Gremiotissa.  By now we were very hot, legs starting to ache a little from all the stairs  so we stopped at the sign pointing to the Church.  Hmm, will we carry on?  yes, it’s only a little further so on we pushed and reached the side of the Church…too many people crowded around the end of the alley plus Lord Lunchalot and Gorging Gonz were saying words like ‘coffee’ and ‘rest’.  We retreated to the alley below where we saw a number of cafes. A table became vacant at one of the cafes, Louis cafe. Lord Lunchalot promptly sat!  Not one of us argued..we happily parked our bottoms on the other chairs, we didn’t realise how thirsty we were even though we all carried water on our trek. By the time we had sat Lord L has already checked us in on Facebook.  Which lead me to ask ‘what did we do on holidays before Fb and the desire to ‘check in’ came along’? No reply just a wry smile for LL.   Anyway – our legs were also very thankful for the break as we still had to make our way  down this cliff.  I, for one, also needed a loo break and the bathroom in this cafe was interesting.

Most of these cafes are are built in tiny spaces so need to be creative with how that space is used – cafe Louis was particularly creative.    The  toilet and wash basin was at the top of a thin spiral staircase which I likened to spiral pasta it was very tight with only 1 foot fitting on each step.   I certainly wouldn’t attempt it after a couple of drinks – going up might be ok but coming down could be very challenging.  The room itself was indeed tiny, no room to even think about swinging the proverbial cat, even difficult to close the door without sucking as much of your body in as possible – I didn’t dare breathe out for fear of being forever ensconced in one of the tiniest loo I’ve ever visited. However I managed to get back out the door and negotiate the tiny steps on the spiral staircase without incident.  Troy had to duck as he inched his way up the staircase because the ceiling became very low the further up the staircase you went. After we’d all paid a visit to the little room we talked about the fact the cafe is a bar in the evening and wondered how many patrons had fallen over the wrought iron railing whilst trying to negotiate the downhill run.

Drinks finished, body rested, we  headed in a different direction to reach the bottom and eventually the bus stop. For those who want to know costs – an iced frappé cost 2.50 euro and a 500 ml bottle of water was .50 euro cents.

Ios has 365 churches but 361 of them would need to wait for our next visit…so many churches on one tiny island so little time!

Syros was another island where the excursion we had chosen was cancelled so we were left DSC03326to our own devices but that wasn’t a big issue.  We were happy wandering around the villages ourselves.  Syros was an evening port of call so we thought it appropriate to sample the fare of the restaurants.  After strolling around several streets and alleys looking at menus we came across a very pretty alley and decided we will eat at one of these places.  We chose Kouzino and we certainly weren’t disappointed.  Lovely open air setting with tables covered in butchers paper…odd you’re thinking?  We thought it a little strange until we noticed the crayons in a pot on the table – something to keep the kids  occupied whilst waiting for dinner…..in our case it was the adults!!

We were surprised  to find the wife of the restaurant owner was an Australian.  We were all a little envious of her idyllic lifestyle.  Don’t we all dream about living on a beautiful Greek island eating the amazing fresh foods, soaking up the colours of the sea, the houses and the landscape?

The food at Kouzino was amazing, the service was friendly, good choices of wines, the evening was warm AND they let us draw on their tablecloth! What more could you want, oh, the prices, well it cost 35 euros for entrée, mains, one dessert (yes you guessed it Gorging Gonz) and a  bottle of wine. We voted this restaurant 5 out of 5….could not fault anything!!

Cape Sounion was one port I was very excited about.  This is where the Temple of Poseidon is situated on the edge of a very high cliff majestically facing the Saronic Gulf.  The sunsets are supposed to be magic but ours was a morning excursion but I didn’t mind I was just excited to be here. The Temple  was thought to be built around 440BC and knowing you’re  standing in the shadows of this massive man made structure over 2000 years old leaves you in awe. So many different emotions filled my mind as I walked around the building.  Thoughts of the craftsmen that created the Doric columns by hand, no modern machines to pattern the columns, the labourers assembling the columns and placing them in position.  Transporting the columns too…just so hard to comprehend the amount of effort required.  They did and amazing job and the view of the temple and the sea in the background is stunning, so stunning to the eye I’m sure the photos we took don’t do the view justice.   DSCN2969

Our guide was a little lacking in her approach for the english speaking tourists.  No surprise here when the english speaking were asked to wander around the Temple on our own and return to her in 40 minutes after she had completed her information session for the non english speaking on the excursion.  We wandered back at the allotted time.It was extremely windy on this headland so it was no surprise when the tour guide asked to borrow a woman’s pamphlet which also held her entrance ticket that it blew away when the guide opened the pamphlet.  We then watched as the guide ran after the ticket trying to retrieve it but, as in comedy sketches, the ticket would blow away in another direction just as she almost reached it.  Eventually it blew over a fence – so her souvenir of her visit was gone forever and we only received a 15 minute history lesson rather then the 40 minute the other group received.  Oh, well, I knew most of the history anyway and the wind was becoming annoying!  I was happy to head back down to the cafe and souvenir shop.

Back on board sitting playing UNO in our favourite bar with our favourite bartender we talked about the islands we’d visited, the state of the cruise in general and unanimously agreed our favourite island on this trip was Kos.  A week relaxing on Kos would be ideal.

I have enjoyed 5 cruises prior to this one including 2 with Louis cruises (owners of Celestyal Cruise Lines) and have never encountered excursions being cancelled or being offered when they weren’t available.  We were disappointed but as you have read we overcame the disappointment and enjoyed our own little excursions.

My final blog on this cruise of the Greek Islands will be a like/dislike blog requested by a number of my readers.  Also remember feedback is always welcome!



Celestyal Cristal Ports of Call part 1

Our first port of call on the Celestyal cruise is Khusadasi. Troy was the only one of our group that hadn’t been to Ephesus so we had him book a tour and agreed to meet him at one of the coffee shops in the arcade linking Khusadasi and the ship terminal at 11am. It was his birthday and we didn’t want him to spend all morning alone. We’d got to sleep in and relax on the balcony for a couple of hours before being at the rendezvous point.

At 10.30 we disembarked and headed to the rendezvous point…I resisted the urge to stop at each stall along the route to the arcade and made it to the coffee shop without opening my wallet. It would be a different matter on the return walk to the ship however!!

We waited for a short time before ordering coffees, assuming Troy would turn up at any minute. Our coffees arrived, we sipped slowly, it was now 11.20am and still no sign of him. The ship was due to leave Khusadasi at 12 noon. ‘If he isn’t here soon we’d better make our way back to the ship’ Ty said, I agreed saying ‘Perhaps the tour was delayed or perhaps he was roped into the carpet factory’. We laughed at the thought as on my first trip to Ephesus we had been taken to a carpet factory supposedly to see how Persian carpets are made! The tour group was ushered into a large room and the doors duly locked behind us…no visible means of escape. The salesmen then went to work on how fabulous these rugs were and why everyone should buy a Persian rug to take home, they’d even be kind enough to ship if for us…we pay the shipping of course. I was a little naïve all those years ago but quickly learned getaway tactics to save me from dreaded pushy sales pitches. I don’t like being forced into anything like that on a tour, I understand that everyone is entitled to make a living however those on a tour should be given the chance to opt out of any ‘we’re just going to call in to this factory and learn how carpets or ceramics or huge wooden tables are made’. Yes, huge wooden tables that weigh several ton, the spiel is the same, ‘of course we can ship that to your home for you’…’how many chairs would you need to go with it’? So I was amused at the thought a carpet or ceramic salesman was trying the hard sell on our friend Troy….. bound to fail as Troy does not give up his cash easily for any salesperson……unless it’s for a Tiffany watch and for that I’m there by his side giving him as much encouragement as possible!!!!

At 11.30 we decided to wander back to the ship, stopping at the shops along the way. No rush just a slow stroll but still no sign of Troy. Eventually, as we stood on our balcony, we saw Troy in the distance…he waved, we waved…he didn’t look happy though. Back on board he complained about how we abandoned him on his birthday….now hadn’t he just had a lovely time on a tour to an amazing ancient city? Yes, but that wasn’t the point…we weren’t at the meeting place. “We were there just that you were late back. Let’s have lunch” I said trying to placate him….food or a drink generally worked!!!

This afternoon our ship docked in Samos. As well as being the home of Pythagoras, Samos is a large island in the eastern Aegean and home to 33,000 inhabitants. It covers approximately 5,000 square kilometres. On arrival in Samos the wind had finally eased and the day was glorious. Love this hot weather! We chose not to take a tour but to wander around parts of Samos on our own. Our preferred tour was cancelled.



Walking around Samos was thirsty work….a drink stop was necessary! Monos Bar looked inviting for a cold drink. We wandered in, chose a seat in the shade and the menus duly arrived. I decided on a frappé with ice cream…..’No, we don’t have ice cream’ said the waiter. Hmmm, are things on Samos so bad they can’t afford ice cream or had there been a run on ice cream and they were waiting for the next delivery? I said this to no one in particular. I ordered a frappé without ice cream but added a dash of Baileys.  Frappé arrived with half the coffee and double the Baileys. Thankfully we chose to sit and watch the view for an extended period of time! Whilst watching the world go by we couldn’t help but notice a people wandering around with large bags, other people were washing clothes and laying them out to dry on the bench seats at the waterfront. What’s that about? Then we realised these were possibly refugees making their way across from Turkey to Greece on their journey to Germany or The Netherlands. Majority were men, not many women. The newcomers were sitting around on the steps of buildings or wandering in the streets or shops. A large number of refugees looked more Pakistani, Iranian or Afghanistan origins.  We had all been thinking the same thing but not saying anything at the time.  Our thoughts were confirmed later, in news broadcasts, when we were in other parts of Europe -the reports confirmed not all refugees were from Syria.  Either way this is a sad situation for the people and the countries, such as Greece, where they were landing and expecting help them until they could complete their journey to their country of choice. Although this was confronting at times I was glad we were able to see this first hand as news broadcasts at home do not always tell the whole story.

This evening I had booked a table for 4 in the Amalthia dining room because the other dining room was still closed due to a private function. Hopefully it will be open again tomorrow night! I had also ordered a surprise birthday cake for Troy to be brought to our table tonight. Dressed for dinner we convened in the lounge outside the dining room. Entering Amalthia I mentioned I had booked a table for 4 earlier but we were directed to a table where 4 other people  already sat. Not what I had requested nor wanted but the waiters were quite terse. We did as directed as it was Troy’s birthday we didn’t want to spoil it. The evening menu was a little limited and the dishes couldn’t be altered even to leave a sauce off or change a sauce….obviously not cooked as you ordered but already pre cooked which was very disappointing.

The 3 courses were very unappetising as if not much effort had been put in, I started to think, perhaps, whoever was holding these private function in the other dining room was getting the better service than the rest of us. We had completed out second course and they now came and asked what we’d like for dessert, which surprised me because I’d ordered a birthday cake for Troy. I’d been good enough to remind the maître d on our arrival and I couldn’t say anything in front of Troy so just hoped the cake would arrive with the promised fanfare.

Dessert arrived, no cake and no mention of cake. It was getting late and people were vacating the room….time to go and see why the cake hadn’t turned up. Oh, they forgot!! Ten minutes later, in an almost empty dining room, the cake arrived with one waiter playing guitar and a couple of others singing. Troy was suitably surprised and embarrassed so I was pleased about that but still felt the staff were not very attentive in the dining area and there was room for improvement in customer service.



Over the next 7 days the Thalasso bar at the rear of the deck 5 became our place of relaxation. Ivan was our barman…a young Cuban man. He supplied menus, we ordered drinks. The cocktail list looked impressive so most days it was cocktails all round….my choice was Baileys Iced coffee. So easy to drink naturally it became my staple on a daily basis….without the cream, of course. A girl does have to watch her weight!!!

Apart from the islands above our cruise would take us to: Milos, Syros, Cesme, Lavrion (Cape Sounion), Kos, Ios and Santorini. We opted for excursions on Kos, Syros, Cesme and Milos and Cape Sounion. Unfortunately several of our pre booked excursions were cancelled – very disappointing for us. Two were due to lack of participants, another had been listed and able to be purchased but wasn’t even available on this cruise. The Kos excursion we had chosen could be cancelled due to the refugee situation as it was deemed unsafe to ferry passengers on a smaller craft to another island. This excursion was duly cancelled as well. What did we have left? The excursions on Milos and Cape Sounion – that was it. I would have been extremely angry if Cape Sounion and Milos were also cancelled. Poseidon’s temple was a favourite of mine….that view looked amazing in photos.

The excursion to Milos was extremely interesting and I’d certainly recommend a visit to Milos.  Milos is where the Venus De Milo was discovered. One part of the island has a moonscape, quite extraordinary scenery, made up of a white, chalky surface. Vegetation does not grow on the pure white ground but the vision is breathtaking with the deep blue of the sea glistening against white cliffs and odd shaped rock formations. In several places caves had been carved out below the cliff face. These caves, our guide told us, were possibly used by the men harvesting the rock for shelter from the sun and they may have even lived in the caves for weeks or months at a time.



After an hour it was time to return to the bus for the next part of the excursion, the ancient burial crypts on the other side of the island. Our tour was supposed to be an English speaking tour however, as with everything else on this cruise, that was not the case. There was a group of people of subcontinent heritage on the ship and although they lived in the US only spoke in their native language. We don’t have any issue with that but if you’re part of an English speaking tour then, I feel, they should speak Englishman respect the tour guide and their fellow tourists. Unfortunately they didn’t feel it necessary to speak English, listen to the tour guide giving us tour information and historical facts or return to the assigned meeting place within the requested time frame. It was increasingly uncomfortable trying to listen to our tour guides whilst these people talked incessantly, shouted to one another over the other passengers in the bus and habitually returned to the bus at least 20 minutes after we should have left for our next destination. Most of the English speaking tourists agreed this group should have been split into 2 groups but I suppose the cruise excursion office did not take the cultural differences into consideration. I would also assume they were saving money by putting both groups onto one bus.

When we reached the next site, the burial chambers or catacombs, there was a long downhill walk to the entrance of the chambers. We followed the guide along the winding path but the other group, save one, ignored the guide and stopped at the top for a discussion of their own. This gentleman pushed past us on the path. We arrived at the base and the second group arrived in dribs and drabs. The guide gave each of us a number, this would be the order in which we were to enter the chamber. As you can imagine the burial chambers were a labyrinth and not very well lit so very easy to become lost if you step away from your guide. I’m not keen on dark, underground spaces so I would certainly be staying close to the guide!! We had all received our numbers when the final group arrived. They took their numbers and proceeded to head toward the chamber entrance…the guide called them back ‘ We must wait our turn, another group is in there now’. ‘I will tell you when it is your turn’ he added. Further discussions took place as they checked their respective tickets. Several of the women looked at our ticket numbers and went to speak to the guide. ‘ You are in the tour after these people’ he pointed in our direction as he spoke. More discussions within their group and we gathered, from the facial expressions, they weren’t happy.

Contention seemed to be that the man who headed down in front of us had a number between ours. Finally the tour in front of us returned and it was our turn, however, as the guide called our numbers the other group rushed forward to enter the chamber. The ever patient guide caught them and sent them back to the waiting area as they waved their cardboard numbers. We finally entered the burial chambers unimpeded. They were gesturing to the man in our tour and I’m assuming they thought they should be allowed to jump the queue to join him. I did notice he didn’t offer to step back and wait for the next tour!



Tour over it was time to wander up the path to wait for the bus and as had become the order of the day, the second group of people with no regard for anyone else decided to wander off somewhere else or sit and chat below for 20 minutes. The arrogance was starting to annoy the guides as well because they reiterated the importance of returning to the bus on time. A bit harsh you think?? Not really, we’re on set excursion times and there is a lot to cover. Plus returning to the ship or the port in plenty of time we’re able to have a relaxing drink and watch the passing parade!! A most enjoyable pastime.

Rather than lunch on the ship today we decided that Mariana’s on the waterfront looked the place to be.  The tables and chairs sat under shady vines which kept the dining area cool.  Gorging Gonz was in his element when he saw the items on the menu. he couldn’t choose just one plate so chose 3 entrées! He started with Bell pepper filled with mince and rice followed by red pepper stuffed with feta and finally a beef hotpot.  ‘Where do you put all this food’ we asked him on a regular basis. He’d shrug and laugh.  The rest of us had one meal each.  The total cost of the meal with drinks for 4 was 54 euros.

Lunch over we wandered along the boardwalk and Lord Lunchalot spied an ice creamery. Ice creams all round….1 euro 80 a scoop for takeaway or 2 euro 30 for eat in.

Our next port of call was Kos which has a lovely harbour dominated by a 15th century fortress and an ancient Agora which is free to enter and wander around.  As the ship was inching closer to the dock we noticed metal fencing around us and several security cars and police cars, we thought how odd this was and it looked very uninviting.  We didn’t realise till a short time later that this was protection for the ship and her passengers.

Kos Harbour 1

Kos Harbour 1

Initially the street across from the harbour looks very cramped with shops and cars but once you walk through the lanes you arrive at a large main square with restaurants and shops sitting around the edge.  The square is very pretty and puts out a feeling of spaciousness whilst inviting the visitor to sit at one of the restaurants to enjoy a relaxing drink whilst watching the world go by.  Just fabulous.  This island caters very much to the English tourist or we assumed so.  The menus have the typical english breakfast fare of sausages, eggs, tomatoes, bacon, beans and mushrooms and the Aussie breakfast came without beans and mushrooms!

Kos main square

Kos main square

Ty spied a charity tent for cats and dogs so he wandered over and was there for over 30 minutes chatting.  He came back with information about the charity and the woman running the charity.  She was from Bondi in Australia, retired and spends her Aussie winters in Kos and Greek winters back in Bondi….what a life!

It was hard to imagine what the island would be like without out the large groups of displaced people sitting around the town, filling the travel agencies and waiting outside as well, the huge tent city that had been erected around the ancient walls.

Kos Agora stone

Kos Agora stone

The area where the cruise ships docked was fenced off with high metal fencing and patrolled by guards to stop the people from trying to board the cruise ships.   The ancient Agora had also become a home to many or at least being used as an area for lighting fires to cook (I assume) and their toilet. How do I know that?  Whilst walking through the ruins I passed a couple of places where fires had been lit in the long grass.  As for the toilet I stepped into an area, between a number of fallen columns, dotted around with human faeces.  I stepped back very quickly warning the others not to venture any further.   About 200 metres away under a clump of shady trees sat a large number of men who I assumed were refugees but, as in Samos, they appeared to be Pakistani men.

It was also on Kos that, whilst sitting in a cafe, we had the misfortune to be annoyed several times, by a number of young girls pushing plastic cups into our faces and insisting we give money.   The girls were working in a group with a teenage girl checking the amount of money they were collecting.  I have visited the Greek Island numerous times and have never witnessed this before. The restaurant and bar owners were trying to move them on and were very embarrassed.  As one bar manager apologised he also mentioned how the crisis was hurting their businesses very hard as tourists were staying away.  He went on to point out the people arriving on the island didn’t want to be on Kos they wanted to move on to Germany and the Netherlands as the islands were ill-equipped to deal with such large numbers of people.  ”Unfortunately”, he told us,  ”most don’t have any papers to prove who they are so can’t be moved on”.  We were informed that the refugees were coming from a number of countries not just Syria which we noted ourselves in Samos.  We were to hear and see a lot more on the refugee crisis in the coming weeks as we moved from Greece to Eastern Europe.

Moving on from that unfortunate situation our next port of call is Cesme a Turkish coastal town with a thriving night life, beautiful beaches and clear water.  The excursion we had chosen was actually not offered so none of the tour staff could give us a reason why the excursion was still ‘live’ on the website.  Well, we would just have to amuse ourselves today … I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem for us.  Gorging Gonz would eat his way through the day, Lord Lunchalot would stop for drinks and food as well and we’d indulge them their favourite pastimes and join in.

Given this post is quite long I thought I should give my readers a break so Part 2 Celestyal Cristal ports of call covers the other Greek Islands visited and will posted shortly.






Likes and Dislikes on the Celestyal Cruise August 2015

This likes and dislikes blog is for those who might want to ‘cut to the chase’ given the previous blogs on the Celestyal cruise were quite long.  I also have a number of readers who specifically want to read a ‘likes and dislikes’ list.

To those regular readers that may feel I’m being harsh, or if you’re reading my blog for the first time, this is my 6th cruise and 4th around the Greek Islands.  The 3rd cruise on a Louis/Celestyal cruise line.

Before going on I do have to state the ‘must have’ item for people on this cruise was……


Lord Lunchalot

a captains hat….as modelled by Troy.  Let’s not be picky here, yes I thought you’d notice, it is a little small and lopsided but he was the best model on the day.




Let’s start with the experiences we liked…

  • Our balcony and stateroom on Deck 6 – we had one of the presidential suites
  •  Our bar waiter Ivan on deck 5 Thalasso bar


    Drinks on Deck 5

  •  Islands visited and some amazing scenery
  • Unpacking once
  • Our cabin person although he didn’t make any towel animals until the very last night of the cruise. Towel animals are an important part of a cruise😀
  • The relaxing facial and massage we had at the on-board salon, although not so sure about the foot reflexology.
  • The first time we went to the Karaoke Lounge
  • The following staff were great: Our cabin steward although I don’t think I ever really knew his name! Elvis Troy’s cabin steward, Kataryna pool bar waitress, Kadek and Wayan in dining room and Ivan (again – he rates a second mention as he was exceptional in looking after our drink needs). These five crew members were outstanding in their customer service, always smiling and helpful.
  • Troy loved his towel animals, a different one was sitting on his bed every night.  he took  a picture of each one to make me jealous because we didn’t have any till the last night.

    Troys Towel animal 1

    Troy’s towel animal #1

  • The check in process was efficient
  • The cruise ship daily newsletter was very informative
  • Cleanliness of cabin and public areas was good
  • Housekeeping staff were very friendly
  • Drinks package and selection of drinks on offer was good
  • Pricing of excursions, places visited and punctuality of commencing the excursions was good.
  • Cruise was chosen for the destinations visited.
  • Amusing ourselves at the Thalasso Bar playing uno and drinking the wonderful cocktails Ivan prepared for us.
  • A couple of the shows on board were enjoyable

View from our balcony

View from our balcony


Our lounge area






Now for the experiences we disliked during the cruise………

  • One or two of the breakfast crew who were quite rude when we chose our own seat
  • A male supervisor in the Amalthia Restaurant never smiled or engaged in conversation with passengers (that we saw).  He bumped into a few of us at different times but no apology not even a grunt!
  • This is a Greek Island cruise without the friendliness and hospitality of the Greeks
  • We all felt the cruise director was looking after one cultural group
  • The main meals except for breakfast
  • The fact we purchased the top beverage package and still had to pay for ice cream  (Ty and Troy love their ice cream)!!!  We found that a little odd. Other cruises include ice cream in the top beverage package


    Ty & Troy & the ice cream cart.

  • The fact that the Olympus dining room was closed for the entire cruise to all but a small group of US citizens of sub continent background meant the choice of dining for the majority of passengers was the buffets or the Amalthia restaurant with a very small al la carte menu.
  • Food at both buffets was repetitive,very bland and much of it appeared to be leftovers from the meal served in the dining room the previous night. The hot food was very often lukewarm or cold.
  • Cancellation of 3 of our excursions…one wasn’t even offered yet we were able to purchase it on the website 6 months before the cruise departure date.
  • Troy’s stateroom on deck 5 was not as advertised. Staff uninterested
  • My beauty therapist trying to sell products before letting me out of the treatment room.
  • One lunch time a bar b que was being cooked on deck when the pool cleaner arrived and proceeded to clean the pool. Passengers had to endure loud noise form the machine and dust particles rising through the air whilst trying to relax and enjoy lunch.  If the pool needed cleaning urgently the most sensible option would have been to just close it and clean it later.  Again lack of customer care from management.
  • Care factor of crew was non existent which reflects on cruise line itself.
  • Several of the breakfast waiters were extremely rude especially if we wanted to choose our own table.
  • Second time we went to Karaoke Lounge when a different cultural group came in and asked DJ to play their country of origin music.  The DJ played the music and ignored requests from everyone else until all other groups eventually left the Karaoke Bar.
  • Reception staff very often couldn’t answer basic questions. Troy’s key was disengaged on the second night of the cruise …. no explanation available.
  • Tour desk staff and excursion guides were mediocre. We were on an English speaking tour but the minority so tour guide conversed in language other than English.
  • Female supervisor around pool area never smiled, tried hard not to make eye contact with passengers and reprimanded a waiter in front of passengers. We thought this very unprofessional behaviour.
  • Early morning excursions. We’re on the cruise to relax so I avoid as many morning excursions as possible!!!

Areas we feel require improvement…

  • Food in all dining areas, provide more menu options in dining rooms
  • Reception staff need to be more informed
  • Most of the crew which means the cruise line itself….happy, engaged crew make for happy passengers. Majority of  workers with sour faces on this cruise ship…rare to see a smiling crew member.  Previous cruises passengers generally develop a rapport with some of the crew and share a joke or friendly banter – not on this cruise. Have to think the issue comes from the top down.
  • Staterooms could do with a revamp especially deck #5. What was advertised as bright and airy was in fact tiny, dark and dingy. Perhaps truth in advertising might be a consideration as well.
  • Uniforms were badly in need of  repair, iron, or to be tossed out and new ones purchased.  Unkempt/tardy dress can often show a lack of interest in the position they hold, lack of pride in themselves and lack of care in the work being performed.
  • If the excursion is English speaking only place English speaking passengers on the tour.  We had several english speaking tours where people that could speak and understand english were placed on the tour. However once on the bus they proceeded to speak extremely loudly across the bus in their language, drowning out the tour guide and acting as if no others were on the bus.  As I mentioned earlier they were from the US so no excuse to be so rude. No one has any objection to people speaking in their native tongue to one another but, in my opinion, when they choose to take an english speaking tour speak english when in the Company of others.
  • If you have a group of 50 people out of a total passenger list of 1000 it may be worth reconsidering how you allocate sections of the ship to allow for the group to hold a private function or to have separate menus for their evening meal without affecting the rest of the passengers. Many felt the food in the dining areas suffered due to a small number being catered for with special menus.
  • If you’re going to charge premium rates for cabins perhaps you should employ a specialist to ensure the cruise lives up to the standard expected for that price range.

In the event readers are wondering or thinking why didn’t you convey this to the cruise line – we completed satisfaction surveys which were less than favourable in many areas but we also mentioned the positives.  The surveys contained much the same information as in this blog so, given we haven’t received any response to any of our feedback forms we assume customer service/customer care seems to be non existent across the business.

I doubt I’ll travel on this cruise line again, I know that one of my friends definitely won’t and as it stands I can’t recommend Celestyal Cruises. There were positives and enjoyable parts but the negatives on board outweigh them unfortunately.  I chose this cruise for the destinations visited as it’s the only one that goes to the smaller islands and for that we weren’t disappointed.

Celestyal Crystal

Celestyal Cristal

A Mocha and Oversize Cabin Baggage

Bags checked in for our flight to Santorini it was now time for coffee except the coffee shop had a long line of customers waiting and there were no seats left.  Through the glass wall I could see another coffee shop so we decided to forgo any duty free shopping and passed through the luggage scanners.  Of course I was stopped for a bag scan and a body pat down.  How many other people out there have the same experience as me? It’s very rare that I can walk through the customs check without anyone stopping me for a scan of some sort.

All that done we lined up for coffee and something to eat. We noticed that there wasn’t much available seating at the flight gate so Ty went to find us seats whilst I waited in line at the cafe.  The line wasn’t too long but gave me time to decide what I should ask for given I find the coffee in Europe too strong and there was no chance of asking for a half shot I decided a mocha would be best. I thought it best to order the food first and then launch into the coffee order…Ty’s was easy he just wanted a coke zero.  Now for mine ‘ Could I have a Mocha please ?’ Blank look….Hmm, why did I think the young barista would know what a mocha was? “Ok”, I said to myself, ”check the list of coffees available on the board”…I see Hot Chocolate…’ I suppose I’ll have a hot chocolate please’.  The next customer was an Aussie and she said ‘easy enough for him to put a shot of espresso into it’….’you’d think so’ I replied.  ‘Could I have a shot of espresso in it please?’  He looked at me then he put a small shot of espresso into my hot chocolate…..I’m sure he thought it was an odd request….didn’t care I got the mocha.  He brought the coffee to the counter and clasped his hands together as if in prayer.  ‘Are you praying? I asked.  He smiled, replied in the affirmative and said ‘I don’t want you to order anything else, it’s too much for me!’ I laughed….so a chicken roll (not much chicken), a donut, a coke zero and a mocha was too much for him!!!!!!

We found seats at the departure gate to wait for boarding.  An announcement came over …..the plane had been overbooked would anyone like to take the later flight…we offer €250 plus a free flight.  We would not be taking up the offer….we just wanted to be sitting by the pool at the Villas.

When boarding was called were were amazed at the size of some of the bags people were bringing on this little plane. The overhead luggage compartments are not that deep so some luggage had to be forced under the seats in front of people. We were on the flight early in the boarding process with seats in the middle of the plane so we had a fun time watching the young men and women trying to place their oversize luggage somewhere, anywhere they could fit it!! The girl behind us originally had her suitcase standing between the back of my seat and the front of her seat then she realised she couldn’t sit down, next she tried placing it on the actual seat and sitting on it…eventually the suitcase was forced under the seat.  GG helped the girl that sat next to him push her suitcase under her seat but it was so big it also encroached on his side of the plane.  Gorging Gonz was also in line of sight of the propeller on the left side..not something he was terribly keen on.  Of course Lord Lunchalot was in row 2….a seat suitable for a Lord I’m sure..hahaha.

We had a slight delay whilst the cabin crew tried to force oversize bags into the overhead luggage compartments.  One of the crew pushed one bag with such force we thought it might go through the side of the plane. That bag wouldn’t be moving anywhere no matter how much turbulence we might have.

It seems that if you’re travelling with a small amount of hand luggage you need to board the plane first to ensure space in an overhead compartment before people with hand luggage and a suitcase board the flight.

The flight was short and smooth, cabin service was fast, no sooner receiving a can of drink when it was collected again in preparation for landing. Once the plane landed it was amusing watching people trying to retrieve their oversize bags form the tiny luggage compartments – much huffing and puffing whilst trying to free the bags. The bag that the crew had forced into the luggage compartment was firmly stuck, even with the help of her friend the girls couldn’t free the bag.  Eventually it wasn’t funny because we couldn’t leave the aircraft till they had the bag out – Ty stepped up and helped release the bag.  So a tip for my readers  –  be mindful when flying to the Greek Islands – the planes are small and luggage compartments are even smaller. Even though you might think it’s a faster exit to take your bag on board because you’ve only packed 2 or 3 pieces of swimwear, a towel, a ton of make-up/toiletries, hair straightener and an outfit or 2 for the evenings the bag just will not fit and may be off loaded to the hold anyway.  What’s the rush it’s the Greek Islands and nothing moves quickly here.

Once on the ground we collected our luggage and proceeded to the car rental desk, then the next and finally the last car rental desk.  Normally we would have booked a car in advance but we weren’t sure what our travelling companions preferred to do. Perhaps they’d want to hire motor bikes or quad bikes.   We wandered over to the taxi rank outside the terminal and a very friendly female driver packed the bags onto the taxi roof and we set off for our Villas in Messaria.

Copy of Kerins disc 3 Prague to Munich 026


Embarkation day Celestyal Crystal Idyllic Aegean 7 Day Cruise

Mykonos weather was incredibly windy making it difficult to spend any time on the beach or dining around Little Italy waterfront area. No surprise then that, after 3 days of constant strong winds, we were looking forward to boarding the cruise ship. I had originally thought the ship docked at 6.30am….perhaps wishful thinking on my part as there isn’t really a lot to do on Mykonos in wild weather…only so much restaurant sitting a person can do before boredom sets in. Don’t get me wrong, Mykonos is a beautiful island and I do like it but, for me, 2 days is plenty to wander around as I’m not a person that can lie on a beach for too longs and this was my 3rd or 4th visit.

 Wearing baseball cap (not my preferred type of hat) and scarf for protection against the wind...

Wearing baseball cap (not my preferred type of hat) and scarf for protection against the wind…

Ty used Google to find a Marine website which would giive the approximate coordinates of all ships at sea, the Crystal hadn’t left Athens yet!  Damn, it wasn’t due in till 6.00pm this evening, another day of battling the wild winds. “Hmm, what shall we do today?” I asked at breakfast, “We could take a local bus around to one of the beaches on the other side is of the island”. Silence. “Ok, perhaps we won’t”. Troy didn’t seem keen on taking local transport whereas I quite like it….you get to see areas away from the main tourist sections. We finished breakfast, packed up our bags and took them to reception where they would be held until we were ready to go to the cruise terminal. Helena would drive us back to the terminal. I just felt like a boiled egg for breakfast this morning…very tempted, then again I remember Gordon Ramsay’s programme on Hotel disasters. Oh well, guess I’ll wait till I go home.

We spent the last few hours drinking, eating and drinking and eating…..in that order!! Coffee at a café called Caesars, lunch at Boulangerie Atika. A ham and salad roll, salmon wrap and 2 soft drinks cost €10.90. Good value and very tasty. Of course, as in all places in Europe, we had an ashtray on our table, we moved it to the table next to us, the cleaning lady put another ashtray on our table, I moved it again. We had a little chuckle about that and continued eating our lunch when, not 5 minutes later, the cleaning lady returned with yet another ashtray. Wasn’t she wondering where the ashtrays were going? I now had 3 on the floor beside me and still they kept coming. If we stay for another hour I’d have all of the café ashtrays on the floor beside me. Lunch completed it was time to let others sit down. A unanimous decision was made to go back to the hotel where we would try and find a position on the balcony out of this annoying wind for a while. Arriving back at the hotel we had only been seated on the balcony, in the wind, for less than 10 minutes when the receptionist came to tell us Helena would be going out soon and she could drop us at the Port now rather than later if we preferred. We thought that was a good idea as surely there would be a bar we could park ourselves in for a couple if hours. The short drive to port was all downhill this time so uneventful.

The car pulled up at the port, Ty unloaded the bags from the little green car, we said our thanks and goodbyes to Helena, by the time we lifted our bags she was gone. We walked across to a concrete building with a number of entrances, there was also a small kiosk to one side. We stepped inside the entrance and found a large, dark room with a few concrete seats and nothing else. Not the type of room we were hoping for so this was going to be a long 2 hours waiting for our ship to come in. There was nothing in the vicinity remotely like a café, restaurant or bar. Not even a lot of people watching around here either!!

Ty, Frank and Troy took turns in wandering over to the edge of the dock to look towards the horizon for our ship…..at one stage we got a little excited as, in the distance, we could see a ship heading this way. It wasn’t ours! After an hour had passed more people were arriving at the port however they were embarking on the ship we could see on the horizon. We had placed the bags in the dingy waiting area and, just for something to do, to alleviate some of the boredom, we moved the bags out under the awning of the dingy waiting area. Yes, that used up not even 5 minutes of the waiting time….now what? Ah, yes, back to walking to the edge of the dock and looking to the horizon.

We had placed our bags at the end of the awning, up close to the fenced area,beside a small seat under the awning and I had just stood up to talk to Troy when several Italian girls wandered into the area with their luggage, pushed past us and squeezed into the small area beside me between the fence and the edge of the seat….mind you there was no need to do that as we were at the very end of a large area. Anyway, once they muscled in, we could no longer sit with our luggage and we couldn’t get them to move out of the way so we could all retrieve our bags. It’s instances like these when we remember how considerate and conscious of personal space most of us Aussies are.

Finally, I hear excitement in the voices of Ty and Frank…our ship, they believe, is on the horizon and heading straight for us! Finally, it had been a long day of waiting and sitting around – our ship had come in!!!

Celestyal Crystal

Celestyal Crystal

Yes, they were correct, our ship had come in and had berthed about half a kilometre from where we had been waiting. Collecting our luggage we all headed for the ship. We reached the ship and were stopped by security….tickets and passports were required and ‘now please sit over there’ we were instructed. The security person pointed to a couple of seats along the wall. We needed to wait till all the passengers had disembarked for their excursions before we could embark the ship. More waiting!!

We sat patiently, then impatiently, we fidgeted and took turns to stand, as we watched all the passengers file past us in a slow procession defying the instructions of the crew and excursion organisers for 2 lines only. As the procession dwindled we became annoyed by the one or two stragglers that ambled past, then another three or four would wander past as if they had all the time in the world. Well they did of course but we just wanted to get on the ship and have a drink….we all joked about how inconsiderate these stragglers were!! Didn’t they know we’d been waiting since 6am this morning to board? Finally, after almost another hour had passed, everyone was off the ship and we could board.

The embarkation process was fairly easy, although they didn’t have the camera at the entry door so we received our shipboard card without a photo. Given this simple security procedure wasn’t carried out proper that probably should have been a warning to us that this cruise may not be as slick and organised as we had come to expect of cruising. We had pre booked our drinks package and 5 excursions so, with no further rituals to go through, we were taken to our respective cabins.

Our cabin was a suite on Deck 6. It was our anniversary so we had decided to go the ‘whole hog’ (Aussie slang for the most expensive or top of the range). We had a separate living area, a bedroom with a mini walk in wardrobe, a bath and shower in the bathroom and a very large balcony containing a whirlpool, a table and four chairs plus four sun lounges. Our suite was at the front of the ship and named the Presidential Suite due to the younger of the George Bush’s staying in this particular cabin. There were two suites of this size on the ship.

Our balcony

Our balcony

The ship was not a new modern ship full of bling, such as the Splendida we cruised on last year, but it had undergone a refit around 2011 (I think) and it held a maximum of 1200 people. It was a smaller ship which enables it to manoeuvre into some of the smaller Greek Islands and that’s the reason I chose this cruise; it visited 5 different islands to the usual Greek cruises.We had previously cruised with Louis Cruise lines and found them to be quite satisfactory and Louis has since undergone a name change to Celestyal Cruises. In the European summer they cruise the Greek Islands and in the winter the ship moves to cruise Cuba.

We unpacked then waited for our companions to join us in our cabin before taking a walk around the communal areas of the ship. Of course, all my clothing, shoes plus bits and pieces was neatly placed in the little walk in robe but Ty spread his clothing and other items over 2 wardrobes, several side benches, a couple of drawers and the lounge room table!! Hmm, perhaps these suites need another revamp to include a second walk in robe!!!

Companions all present and accounted for it’s now time to start our tour of the ship. The ship had two a la carte restaurants, a buffet eatery and a bbq area near the pool. As well as several bars and a gelato wagon. We peeked into the hairdressing salon, wellness spa and gym. I wouldn’t be using the gym this cruise because my right foot and ankle was still extremely tender and, although the swelling went down a little at night, very swollen during the day. I definitely looked like I had cankles, well, one cankle anyway so that probably looked even stranger. For those of you not sure a cankle is an ankle that has no tapered shape….essentially this part of the leg is the same size/shape from top of calf to ankle bone. There was also a large showroom, a karaoke bar and a very nice lounge/bar at the rear of the ship.

“Ok, we’ve surveyed our surroundings what’s next?” I questioned. I was met with a chorus of “Food and drinks”. We didn’t think we were dressed appropriately for the dining room so we opted for the buffet. Not my choice as I’m not a fan of buffets….food left sitting uncovered or not properly refrigerated and people picking at it, very often with their fingers, makes me very wary of buffets in general. In my opinion the food didn’t look particularly appealing…the salad veggies looked a little tired (perhaps they’d been waiting around all day as we had). The cold meat had been cut into smaller pieces as had the cheese which brought to mind the saying ‘like a boarding house scrap of butter’ meaning the portions on offer were cut very small to make it go as far as possible or feed as many as possible. My opinion didn’t change as I wandered along the food line nor did I find much to eat….some say I’m way too fussy………Gorging Gonz managed to fill his plate in the shape of a mountain and Lord Lunchalot had quite a full plate as well. Must just be me or it’s a man thing!! I felt sure the a la carte would be a different story and in future we would do our best to eat our meals in either the Olympus Restaurant or the Amalthia Restaurant.

We ended our first evening of seven with a few drinks at the Thalasso Bar on deck 5. We chose a lounge area at the back of the bar trying to sit somewhere out of range of the cigarette smoke…..we learned fairly quickly this would be impossible. We just sat back, enjoyed our drinks along with the calm seas, and talked about our thoughts of the ship so far. Lord Lunchalot was not happy with the size of his cabin, it was very small for a deluxe cabin with barely any room between the twin beds. If this was a deluxe cabin what did a standard look like? Gorging Gonz booked the cheapest inside cabin available on deck 3…..we had visited both of their cabins and GG had more floor space in his. Can you imagine how dark GG’s cabin must be when the light is turned off? I couldn’t stay in a room without a window to the outside world and letting in the light. Ty and I were happy with our suite and also more than happy to share our large balcony and our outdoor amenities and furniture with the others although the whirlpool would fit 2 of us in it at a time but 4 was definitely out of the question.

Tomorrow was Lord Lunchalots’ birthday and the first port of call was Khusadasi in Turkey. We would eat in the Amalthia Restaurant as, unbeknown to him, I had requested a cake for him.

Mykonos Without Petros the Pelican

Mykonos Street Cat

Mykonos Street Cat

The prearranged taxi arrived at the Santorini villas at 10.45am for the short drive to the new port and our ferry trip to Mykonos. We were travelling on the Highspeed 4  a larger capacity ferry and less likely to have too much movement if the sea is rough. The road to the new port is not for the feint-hearted as the road is narrow and winding with buses, trucks, motorbikes and cars all vying for space. Our trip was interesting and at one stage the driver decided to pull out to overtake a bus but quickly changed his mind when confronted with an oncoming bus. GG (Frank) pulled a funny face….it was very contorted not sure whether with surprise or with the thought his life was flashing before his eyes….he was in the front seat so probably more worrying for him. This much excitement cost the small sum of 20€.

The ‘new port’ is big and berths are not well sign posted so it was decided I would step into the Hellenic Seaways office and asked the desk person where we need to be. He pointed and said “turn left”. ‘Thanks’ I replied. We walked left, a building had a sign ‘Departures’, we entered a hot, stuffy room..supposedly a departure lounge but more like a large garage with a few bench seats along the wall. I walked to the back of the room where there was more space to breathe. We stood around for a few minutes but the stuffy atmosphere was very unpleasant so Ty thought we should step back outside and sit in the shade. Ty deduced the ferry would dock a little further down the dock….hmm, ok, I thought ‘ but that is the departures lounge and assume it’s that for a reason as we need to show passports and tickets’. About 20 minutes later the ferry came in and docked up on the other side of the departures lounge!! My thinking was right and we would have been at the head of line and out of the sun now we had to join the back of the line in the sun….I had a chuckle to myself because husband was sure he was right!! He’d checked all the berths and where the buses had lined up and decided the big ferry needed the bigger berth.

Boarding and disembarking the ferry was a little like a cattle stampede. The bags were left on the car deck level under the sign for your destination, which wasn’t too difficult, but retrieving the bags before disembarking was very messy with people going every which way. We had pre booked our tickets and the cost per person for business class seating with a table was 68€.  The ferry stopped at Naxos, Ios and Paros before our stop. The three and a half hour trip was relatively smooth.

When we reached the port of Mykonos the owner of our hotel met us. Helena was her name and there she stood among other collection agents holding up signs with guests names on them. We saw the sign  ‘Starr’ and made a bee line for Helena who was in discussion with another couple but turned to us, we introduced ourselves, and she  motioned for us to follow her.  As we turned to follow she said to the young couple ‘I will come back for you, wait here I will not be long’. Weaving through cars and buses we eventually came to her little car….wedged between cars on all sides….’this will be interesting’ I whispered to Ty ‘if we manage to get into the car how she’s going to get this out’. All of us squeezed in the car and now what? Well, Helena grated the gears and moved the car a little forward, no, that wouldn’t work, a quick turn of the steering wheel, a small reverse, stop, move forwards a little more, stop, say something in Greek, turn steering wheel again, move a little to the side…no, not going anywhere here, the little dusty green car was certainly parked  in on all sides. I whispered to Ty,” perhaps you guys need to get out and lift the car over the other car beside us”. Eventually the drivers of the other cars came back and moved off allowing us to drive off as well, not before abusive words were uttered between Helena and a couple of the drivers.

Helena’s little car was ok on the flat but when it turned a corner onto a steep gradient it had problems, partly due, I’m sure, to the load in the car; Helena herself wasn’t a little lady; 3 men and myself with about 70kgs of luggage in the very back made the little car really struggle. Suddenly a car came round a blind corner in front of us, Helena stepped on the brake, a car was close behind us as well, the oncoming car wasn’t stopping and passed us.  Helena grated the clutch, changed gears and hit the accelerator……dust and rocks flew up around us as we rolled – backwards. Brakes slammed on again, very quickly, as Helena crunched the gears and tried again to force the little car up the hill. No, the little green car was having none of that as we started to roll back down the hill again. The car behind us hastily went round us as we rolled further back down the hill. I was thinking to myself ‘As long as we stop before the car rolls back to  the main road I’m not too worried’. After a few more tries Helena finally revved the poor little things motor as much as possible and it made its  way to the top of the hill. I looked at Ty and we laughed (silently of course) welcome to Mykonos and hotel Spanelis our home for the next 3 days. Helena dropped us at the hotel, hurriedly gave us our room numbers and rushed back to the port to the other couple she had left on the dock. Luckily it was quite windy so they wouldn’t be wilting in the hot sun.

We were each registered and given our room keys by an assistant. Our rooms were a disappointment to all of us, extremely small even by European standards, very old, shower base was tiny with a curtain, we did have a large balcony but it was so windy you couldn’t enjoy it. There was only one useable powerpoint as the other was behind the bed head. The view from the balcony was not as it was on the web page. The web marketing of the hotel was very slick but incorrect in many details. The website also mentioned access to the pool complex at the hotel next door was available when you buy a drink at their bar. However, when we enquired with Helena she said ‘you can ask but they may not let you’. So more false advertising. The hotel advertised it was 500 metres from centre….it’s about 800 so not too much difference and the walk isn’t too bad.

The weather in Greece had been unusually windy and we’d hoped it wouldn’t follow us to Mykonos but it did. As with Santorini the locals on Mykonos were very happy to have the wind as they’d previously had extreme heat with no breeze at all. Heading down the hill to town was easy…we had a tail wind, dodging the passing traffic was a different matter. At one point, on the little road, there was a stand-off  between a van and a couple of cars. It was hard to get past them so we stood in a small lay by and watched as they gesticulated back and forth….eventually the larger van won out and the cars reversed back until the van could pass them. The show was over so all those walking could continue on their way.

Lonely Windmill

Lonely Windmill

We arrived at the edge of town and decided it was time for afternoon tea at the waterfront….Little Italy and the windmills weren’t going anywhere so there was no rush. We sat at one of the many cafes, we chose Kouros Cafe, with a view straight out to the breakwall and sea. Of course the first question Troy asked was “Do you have wi fi”. We’d come to realise that it wasn’t whether the food was good or he liked a dish on their menu or even that the view was quite spectacular….no, the main ingredient for Troy (Lord Lunchalot) was wi fi. As in many holidays there is often one overriding factor for making choices when choosing places for refreshments….ours would be wi fi.

This also meant that on occasion meal times would stretch out longer than Ty and I would usually spend sitting and eating when we were on holidays. Lunch and morning tea especially.

Time to move on to take in the other sights of Mykonos…..we headed around to Little Italy via the sea wall but, because of the wind, the waves were crashing over the sea wall making the walkway very slippery. I was still carrying my injury from Santorini so I wasn’t going to risk slipping over as a trip to another Greek hospital is not on my agenda…(previous visit to Greek hospital was in 2007 when I broke my 5th metatarsal bone and left the hospital plastered from toes to knee). If I’ve broken anything this time it will have to wait till I return home. Anyway, we had to turn back and take the long way round through the little narrow streets, passing many shops along the way, stopping at some, eventually coming out to the right of ‘Little Italy’.

It wasn’t as picture perfect as the last visit in 2010 mainly due to the restaurants at the edge of Little Italy being closed, their chairs and tables stacked up untidily away from the crashing waves. The owners would not be happy losing business at this time of the season, or anytime for that matter. They have only a short time to make their money before winter sees the tourism on the Greek Islands come to a close.

We wandered up to and around the windmills, took the usual photos. Although I’m not sure why I was taking photos I have so many from every angle from previous visits I hardly need any more and then there’s what to do with them? Oh well, just can’t help myself.  Always trying for that postcard picture.

We decided to amble back to the hotel for a relaxation break before walking to town for dinner later in the evening. One thing the hotel had in it’s favour was wi fi…so that kept both Lord L and GG happy.

It was good to sit and relax for a couple of hours as our holidays are usually quite hectic. No matter how much I say I’m going to take time out to relax and write it doesn’t happen. Hmm, perhaps I need to take a holiday on my own to a  villa in a cute little village somewhere in France or Italy…… although I have the feeling my husband would want to come along as well…to relax!! We wouldn’t relax ‘cos within an hour of settling in to write he would say ‘So, are you ready yet’? or ‘How long do you think you’ll be doing your writing for?’ He’s over the relaxation or the ‘I’m catching up on some writing today’ bit within the first hour. He doesn’t realise that once you get into a rhythm with writing you can’t place a time limit on it?  Why am I telling you this? To explain why, very often, my blog is a few days or even weeks behind.

Back to Mykonos…..showered, changed and time to meet up with fellow traveling companions. Well one at least, as GG is generally 5 to 10 minutes late turning up to our meeting points and Troy is 10 minutes early.  All present and correct we start the trek back down the hill to dinner. Tonight I have a scarf to pull up onto my head if my hair starts to blow around.  I know, not really a good look but so tired of looking like a windswept wreck every time we venture out. We only made it to the edge of town this evening as we liked the look of the menu at Kavlos Restaurant earlier today. The restaurant faced the waterfront and we could look across to the other restaurants and stores that arced the seafront. Very pretty scene as the sun was setting. Food and the service was very good but it was interesting watching the waiters as they flirted incessantly with every female customer…one waiter in particular named Petros was over the top in the attention he gave to the women he came in contact with. Around 10.15 we decided it was time to drag our tired frames back up the hill and home by 11pm. The room was hot and stuffy but at least the air conditioning worked very well. This room was also a non smoking room and, amazingly, no previous guests appeared to have smoked in the room ‘cos the air quality coming out of the air con didn’t smell like stale cigarettes….2 pluses for the hotel so far – wi fi and good air con!

No sign of Petros around town today – maybe we’ll see him tomorrow.
Up reasonably early this morning, not because we have somewhere to be but because breakfast was only on till 9 am. Showering was a challenge so that would take a little more time…..it was hard enough standing in the small shower base but the shower curtain kept sticking to me…not just one part of my body but to all of me. How many of you have ever tried to shower wrapped in a nylon shower curtain? Let alone tried to wash your hair? Ty had to intervene and hold the curtain back so I could wash my hair. The floor was a swimming pool after each shower…we used most of the towels as bath mats.

Breakfast wasn’t too bad and consisted of cereals, toast, boiled eggs, although after watching Hotel Rescue I’m very wary of boiled eggs, cheese and hams which are the usual staple of European breakfasts and slices of cake. Coffee was not the best but that’s only hearsay ‘cos I don’t drink thick black coffee..

Day 2 in Mykonos and it’s still disappointingly windy…thinking of shaving my head because this wind is playing havoc with my hair and I’ve lost the battle to keep my hair in place….Ty said I shouldn’t worry about trying to keep a style in place – everyone has the same problem with this wind. So I wear the baseball cap we bought in Santorini – flat hair is the alternative to windblown hair I suppose.

So far this trip there have been a few wild and silly statements being made from my companions but I don’t have a head for remembering all those spur of the moment comments….although I do recall Lord Lunchalot’s first statement of the day about the street the hotel is on was ‘ At least it’s a nice, quiet two way street’!  Quiet?! We’re dodging small cars, little trucks, motor bikes and larger cars on our daily walks back and forth to town. A quiet street is not one where I have to back myself up as close as possible to a rock wall to ensue the oncoming car misses me!

A little shopping was in order today.  had bought 2 swimming costumes with me but I hadn’t realised that one of them was a little stretched in the top from our Aqua Zumba classes so didn’t hold certain ‘assets’ as it should…..it needed replacing.  Luckily Mykonos had a Hondos Centre so in I went to find myself a new costume followed by my travelling companions. I found the swimwear section and eventually chose a couple of items to try on. I tried on one and popped out of the change cubicle to see what Ty thought…he thought it was ok but from the other side of the store I heard Troy’s voice ‘your bum looks big in that’. Other customers turned to look in my direction as Frank also made a comment….ok back into the change cubicle and  on with the other costume. This one was a black one piece with a panel down the front with red roses on the black background….quite pretty. I stepped into it and peeked out to show Ty when the other 2 said ‘Come on out so we can see it as well and give our opinion’. Not sure I really wanted their opinion again. Anyway I stepped out of the cubicle and they all agreed this one looked much better, so did some of the other customers, so I had no choice but to make the purchase! I changed clothes and as I came out of the change cubicle Ty took the costume and bought it for me…that was very good and it was also discounted by 30% so that was even better. We both got a bargain.

That was my shopping expedition over. Three men is two too many to shop with when they all have an opinion on what clothing I might want to purchase or even take off the rack to look at.  One nods yes and the other two shake their head in a no motion….best to find somewhere for lunch that way they’ll be focused on food, oh and wi fi. Restaurant of choice for lunch was Rouvera Restaurant. Gorging Gonzo chose the ‘NY Sunset Berger’, yes spelt exactly as I have it, and he says it was the best burger ever!!! Only thing we forgot, from previous travel around Europe, was that, in a number of countries, an eatery will place a basket of bread on the table without you asking and the diner is charged for it. So if you don’t want bread with your meal or you don’t want to pay for it ask them to take it away before they place it on the table. They won’t be happy chappies because it’s a bit of cream on top of the meal price for them. When you receive the bill you’ll notice you’ve been charged anywhere between €1.30 to €1.70 per person for a small basket of bread slices….mostly containing 1 small slice per person and 1 extra. Occasionally you might receive a few little bread rolls.

We decided the Mykonos pigeons were very well behaved as they didn’t bother diners at all. The Aussie pigeon would terrorise you for a crumb, be around your feet and, if you accidentally dropped a morsel, another 20 would turn up. Pigeons and sea gulls can be the bane of outdoor dining in Australia. The Mykonos pigeons didn’t seem interested in the eateries or the diners.

Lunch over GG had some shopping to do plus we’d over eaten again so needed a walk. Gorging Gonz had purchased a certain brand of olive oil moisturiser last time he was in Mykonos so the challenge would be finding it 5 years on. I was also pleased the focus of attention had moved to someone else for a change! After wandering around the pretty alleyways and stopping at each herbal shop we finally found the brand of product. GG went in to the store to ask if it was still available. We waited outside, I like olive oil in cooking but the smell of olive oil soap is quite strong and particularly unpleasant to me. About ten minutes later out he strode swinging a small plastic bag….shopping successfully completed.

It must be afternoon drinks time and by the sea was a good place to have them. We chose Kavlos again. The order was 2 gin and tonics and 2 vodka lime and soda or in the case if Mykonos, vodka, soda, a slice if lemon and sugar in the bottom of the glass! Drinks duly arrived, 2 with pink straws, 2 with yellow straws. The waiter seemed confused on what coloured straw went with which drink so it was left to us to try and sort it out. Well, that didn’t work because we couldn’t agree and just when we thought we had it right someone would say ‘no, this isn’t gin’ and we would start the process over again. I chose what I thought was vodka only to be told ‘no it isn’t that’s gin’ so my glass was swapped again…turns out I had been right. Only discovered after Ty and Troy ordered another G&T each and the coloured straws in their drinks were the ones they thought were the vodkas! Vindicated….I knew I’d drank a G&T instead of the vodka I’d ordered!!!

Whilst we were enjoying our drinks a couple at the next table asked Lord Lunchalot to take their photo, Troy agreed and then they got chatting. This couple came from a town not far from Troy’s home in Queensland. What are the chances of going half way around the world and meeting people from your local area?? The world is definitely shrinking. Although I never meet anyone from my town…but then that may have something to do with me keeping a low profile when I’m overseas and there are other Aussies around. I don’t feel the need to ‘hook up’ with fellow countrymen.

This evening we dined at Salparo Restaurant, on the waterfront, of course. My choice was the Salparo Salad which contained caramelised pear, feta cheese and rocket…..very tasty and healthy as well. Our waiter was a rather large, thickset, unhappy man. He glared and scowled at everyone as if we were an imposition on his time. I’m not sure that the career path he has chosen is the right one for him…

Dinner over we decided to move on to a little Boulangerie for cake and coffee…it’s like an eatfest isn’t it??? Before I do that though I should go to the ladies room. This was an experience ‘cos many loos in restaurants in Europe are, for want of another word, interesting and this one was no exception. Through a section of the kitchen, nothing strange about that, turn left and go up the stairs, turn right at the top and you’ll see the toilet, were the instructions. The stairs were actually a blue metal spiral staircase, very slim in design and a little greasy so care was needed going up, at the top was a storage area and beside it the loo…one for ladies and one for men. Ok, negotiated going up the stairs without too many problems but coming down was another matter. Very greasy, not keen on holding the hand rail either, God knows what bacteria would be living on that, but no choice because there was no room for error getting back to ground. My concern was someone might try to pass me on the stairs…..no chance!! Thank goodness for the antibacterial hand wipes that go everywhere with us.

We leave Salparo and cross the road to the boulangerie, I purchase a Christmas bauble to replace the one I dropped last year along the way. We had almost finished our cake and coffee whilst GG was still ordering his. Eventually he placed his tray on the table, on it sat a very large slice of cake, a custard filo, a muffin and a drink. My goodness he can eat….makes he full just looking at the amount of food he tucks into.

GG and his cakes

GG and his cakes

Whilst we were eating Lord Lunchalot expressed a concern that he hadn’t heard from his mother since 10.30am our time yesterday. He said ‘I keep sending her pictures but she isn’t responding’. I couldn’t resist so I replied ‘your mum is probably staying quiet do you’ll stop bombarding her with photos’. He didn’t think my reply was amusing….the rest of us did. Well, generally people will place one or two pictures of places visited on Fb or MMS a picture but not LL he puts as many as he can in whatever timeframe he has available!!

Still no sign of Petros the pelican today and this is our last evening on Mykonos – tomorrow we embark on our Greek Island cruise. We were looking forward to seeing the crazy bird and its antics especially given we’d told Troy all about him.  Perhaps Petros had been replaced by the busker with the cool Labrador wearing a  baseball cap and sunglasses.

Cool puppy

Cool puppy